Saturday, June 28, 2014

June budgeting roundup

Ann Taylor sleeveless floral-print shell, Savers, $6.82
A lightweight but dressy-looking top for work. I thought the color combination was pretty and unexpected.

Tommy Bahama linen long-sleeve buttondown, Savers, $11.07
I thrifted a Tommy Bahama silk shell a few months ago, and loved the quality of the fabric. I like that this looks a little like chambray, but will be cooler to wear. 

J. Crew sleeveless linen dress, Savers, $11.08
I need lightweight, work-appropriate dresses for most of the school year, and I think this will be a nice addition to my closet. The armholes gape just a bit, but I think taking in the dress from the back would fix the problem. Someone also did a half-hearted job on shortening the straps, which I will unpick and do properly.

Style & Co. petite print dress, Macy's, $19.24
Another dress that looks promising for work ... it even matches our school colors!

Eddie Bauer gray tee, Sam's Club, $8.38 (not pictured)
I bought this because I wanted to add some embroidered embellishment to the neckline, but for accountability purposes decided to add it to my clothing budget vs. my crafting supplies budget.

TOTAL: $57.95
OVER: $7.95
     I'm a little disappointed that this is the first month with a posted budget in which I've gone over ... but at the same time, I think all of these items will be well-used for work.
** Linking up with Franish's Budgeting Bloggers

Thursday, June 26, 2014

summer sewing: black floral chiffon kimono

        Style & Co. petite V-neck tee, Macy's
distressed denim mini, Old Navy

        Summer = sewing time around here, and this is the first thing I whipped up. I've been wanting to buy a kimono top for a while, but saw many (albeit with pretty embroidery) going for $50 in stores. That's my entire monthly clothing budget, so I needed an alternative.
       I headed to the fabric store and picked up 2 yards of this rather florid print for $12. A bright print on a black background just says summer nights to me ... although I will admit that most of my summer nights are happily spent sitting on the couch with a book vs. going out. I liked the big print, but going for a straightforward floral was a stretch for me. I tend to lean toward abstract/graphic florals, so I'm still undecided on whether I like the print, although the colors are beautiful.
        This is basically 3 rectangles sewn together - no separate sleeve - which I think accounts for the voluminous fit. I've never sewn with chiffon before, so it was an interesting project - I used French seams for the first time (to enclose the madly fraying raw edges) and hemming the neckline, bottom, and sleeves took up the  bulk of sewing time. This came out a bit longer than expected, and it almost has a cocoon shape - notice how the side seams hang a bit lower than the rest of the hem in the side view below. I think it also has to do with the slouch of a generously cut arm opening.

    Nonetheless, I think this came out OK for my first time working with chiffon, and a longer hem has an unexpected benefit - more styling options! I figured out that I can alter the silhouette by tying the ends in front:
Or tying the ends in the back gives you just a peek of print in the front ...
... and an interesting draped effect in the back.
   Now I just need to figure out different ways to wear my kimono ... for its inaugural wearing, I went with the classic white V-neck tee and denim bottoms option, which is what you'll often find when you Google "styling a kimono top." Some other styling options:
  • dark skinnies
  • white jeans
  • tucked into a pencil skirt as a kind of wrap top
  •  And since Suzanne just blogged the versatility of a little black dress, I'm wishing I owned a simple black dress that I could pair up with this kimono ... I don't see many people wearing kimono tops with a dress, maybe because of hemline/proportion issues, but it sounds intriguing.
Do you own a kimono top? If so, how do you style yours (I'm looking for ideas!)

Monday, June 16, 2014

bookish in crochet

Crochet and floral top, Ross
distressed denim mini, Old Navy (very old)

    I don't own much crochet or lace, but I couldn't resist picking up this top. It just looked like the perfect top for summer. 

Floral print on the back of the shirt

      Week 2 of summer break was similar to the first ... a lot of lazing around with books! I read Otsuka's "The Buddha in the Attic," which is about Japanese picture brides' experiences in America, and really enjoyed the collective voice narration. Instead of following one or several women, Otsuka tells much of the story from a "we" point of view, with characters emerging with haunting details, then vanishing into anonymity.  I can see how that wouldn't appeal to every reader (after I finish a book, I like to take a peek at the Amazon reviews, and people were split on their liking of the narrative device), but to me it suited Otsuka's poetic style and it had an incantatory power at some points. I also finished Atkinson's "Case Histories." I'm not a big mystery reader, but I rather liked this one, enough so that I've got the second in the series on request at the library.
      Besides obsessively reading, I did manage to go to the gym twice (major accomplishment, I haven't gone in years). I also bought some boldly patterned chiffon to make a kimono top, and cut out the pieces - basically 3 rectangles. I haven't sewn with chiffon before, so I'm looking forward to mastering a new type of fabric, as well as learning how to sew a French seam.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Evan Picone dress, (old)
cobalt cardigan, Gap Outlet
opal studs, gift from EKM

    This is an ooooold outfit ... from Spring Break in March, to be exact.  Why so dressed up on my vacation? I had a job interview. There were exactly 2.5 school librarian jobs posted this year (on this island), and I decided to apply for them all.
    It was an interesting experience. At my first interview, for a half-time position, I was equipped with a pencil, paper, a good half-hour to sit in the school's media center, and the directions that I was to sketch out my plans for the place. I am not a pro at organizing spaces - in fact, in my first classroom a colleague with this skill was generous enough to help me rearrange using the layout she had carefully determined for her room. I ended up thinking back on libraries I had seen and features I had liked about them, and incorporating them into my own design.
     While I'm still a bit disappointed that I was not offered any of those jobs, I realize that competition is stiff - it includes fellow recent graduates as well as experienced folks looking to move. It was heartening to hear that school administrators are starting to realize the value of librarians and an innovative library program.
        I went through my library studies fiercely hoping to never return to the classroom - not because I disliked being a teacher, but because I was so ready to become a librarian. In August, I will start my second year back in the classroom. For some reason, it's not my time to leave the classroom yet. By chance, I landed at my current school, which I like. I still dream about having my own library someday (soon), but for the time being I'm thankful to be fully employed again and to have an all-around good bunch of colleagues and students.

       A friend gifted me two pairs of opal earrings from her own collection a while back. I believe she picked them up on her travels, and they are gorgeous. I never really liked opals before, but after wearing them I've come to appreciate their subtle, almost eerie beauty. This photo doesn't do them justice - the stones come to life with peek-a-boo streaks of bright green and pink in the light. 
* P.S.: This dress was featured in my closet orphans post about a year ago!
*P.P.S.: What is something you are (patiently or impatiently) trying to bring to fruition in your life? It can be big or small ... I'd love to hear in the comments!   

Friday, June 6, 2014

slightly bewildered by summer

End-of-year gift from a student

LOOKING BACK: Some musings, now that I'm 26 kids lighter:
  • Closings are important. So I planned for our last day a "toast party." To tease my students, I drew a piece of toast (the peanut butter-jelly kind) on the board with a caption stating, "no, not that kind of toast ..." I lugged 4 bottles of sparkling apple cider in a cooler bag with ice packs and a stack of itty-bitty 3-ounce plastic cups to school, and invited the kids to write a toast either about their year in 4th grade or their hopes for 5th grade. Not everyone chose to make their toast public, but I think it was a fun way to close our time together.
  • Note to self: for the next toast party, pack a bottle opener! I ended up prying open two bottles with my classroom key, which was an exercise in patience.
Some people see faces in clouds, but I seem to see faces in blobs of cookie dough ...
  • Note to self II: baking under pressure = burned cookies.  I decided that I would make each student a chocolate chip cookie, accompanied by a handwritten note using a free printable I found that read "Congratulations! You're a smart cookie." This was the first time that I've burned cookies - I'm a moderately successful baker, usually. Next time I will hit Costco, buy a pack of prepackaged cookies, and not stress myself out.
  • In the last weeks of school, I kept thinking that things would slow down. They didn't. I realized that if I wanted my students to have some quiet time to reflect, I needed to carve it out. I put together a worksheet with some questions and gave them time on the morning of the last day to fill it out. One of my students in particular astounded me with her thoughtful, honest, deeply personal responses. Her paper was turned in to me with a note at the top saying it was not to be shared with anyone else.  It made me really happy that she trusted me to see her reflection (I had said that students didn't need to turn it in). I wanted my students to take their reflection home, so I went through the papers that day, putting checkmarks at the top, but for hers, I wrote her some encouraging comments and returned it to her. I would like to make reflection a regular part of my classroom routines, and I also realized how satisfying (and information-packed) it can be to communicate with an individual student in this way.
  • Speaking of reflection, what's good for students is good for teachers, too! This blog post suggested that I write myself a letter about my school year, and that's on my list of things to do. Preferably in a comfortable coffee shop with an iced latte and something delicious to nibble on.
    It's been admittedly ... odd to close the school year. I'm still making the transition from "I need to plan for this lesson and grade this set of papers" mindset to the "hmm ... it's a beautiful day, what should I do?" attitude. 
    What I've accomplished so far: 
  • I've worked hard for the past few days on a gift for a departing colleague. I'll post a picture once the gift is given.
  • I've happily returned to early-morning aikido classes.
  • I want to make 5 minutes of meditation a part of my classroom's daily morning routine, so I need to establish my own daily practice (this is long overdue). I've been sitting each day for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Lots of couch time with a book or just for an afternoon nap. :)
     I'm looking forward to more reading, picking up where I left off with the lessons from "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," and crafting/sewing. In particular, I find myself longing for a breezy, sheer kimono top. I'm hoping the perfect one will pop up on a thrift store rack, but if not, it seems like a pretty simple DIY project. I also have a simple taupe scarf that's crying out for some whimsical trim, like hot pink pom poms.
    *** What's something you're excited about doing in June?

Monday, May 12, 2014

flower power

BLACK Saks Fifth Avenue silk top, Off Fifth
Love Fire pants and Carole agate necklace, Nordstrom Rack

       Instead of power dressing, why not try flower dressing? I wore this to work the other day and felt a little like a tulip, which isn't a bad thing when I'm feverishly compiling my data binder.
       I'm still not convinced that blush doesn't translate to blah on me. I love this color on other people, but I'm not used to seeing myself in pastels. What drew me to this top, however, was the interesting cut and draping. I think it's one of those items of clothing that looks better in motion.

What color or colors are out of your comfort zone?

Friday, May 9, 2014

return of the maxi

essential tee, Gap
necklace and INC skirt, Macy's

     Sorry for the slightly blurry face, but at least my outfit appears to be in better focus. ;) After languishing in my closet for a while, this maxi skirt is getting some use! So is this navy tee, which has also been surprisingly unloved. Is there anything better than pairing up two underused items of clothing for one outfit? Well, besides brownies, and true love, and a fresh pile of library books ... 
    Speaking of books, my class has reached a milestone - we just started the last read-aloud of the year! Previous read-alouds we enjoyed were "Silverwing," "Gregor the Overlander," and "The Golden Compass." It was a close race between the sequel to "Compass" and "Frindle," but "Frindle" edged out the competition, mostly because I pointed out that it would be tough to read a 326-page book by the end of May, while they had an excellent chance of hearing all of the much shorter "Frindle." At home, I've just started diving into "Daughter of Smoke and Bone," and have been enjoying it so far. I like to read before bed, and have been going to bed a little later than planned because I have trouble putting it down.
     Time seems to speed up as we approach the end of the school year. We're just about done with state testing, but I plan to spend a good part of my weekend putting together a mandatory binder about my math instruction and student data. The binder is just one component of a slew of new state-wide requirements for teachers. While I think the requirements need streamlining, I have to acknowledge that I've learned a lot from being required to look closely at my students' performance.  
P.S.: When I titled this post, this song randomly popped into my head ...